Downtown Johnstown Culture Crawl 2021

Stanley Chepaitis, retired concertmaster of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, performs to a crowd in the "speakeasy" below the State Theater on Main Street during the first Downtown Johnstown Culture Crawl on Thursday, September 30, 2021.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Angel Auxtero said as soon as she saw the Downtown Johnstown Culture Crawl advertised on Facebook she had to be part of it.

The Thursday event, organized by Chameleon Bookstore owner Mike Messina, began at 6 p.m. and invited and residents and visitors into the city for an evening of “unique activities.”

Creator Square on Gazebo Park opened its doors for the first time to the public for a look at the makers’ spaces, Classic Elements on Main Street hosted a wine tasting and Messina’s business had a slam poetry event outside that featured the Johnstown City Poets Laureate Joyce Robley and Michael Gruber.

It was that last event that intrigued Auxtero the most.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown nursing student from Somerset read an original piece titled “Pickled Eggs on a Supermarket Shelf” as well as other works.

“I’m here for the community that poets and poetry creates,” she said.

Auxtero doesn’t describe herself as a poet but “a girl with big feels and a pen.”

She said she loved the idea of the Culture Crawl.

Sandy Wojcik and Karen Conlin agreed.

The pair traveled from Cairnbrook to check out the event.

“It’s so nice to see things starting to happen downtown,” Wojcik said.

She grew up in Johnstown but moved away some time ago.

Conlin was the one who recommended they visit the crawl after seeing it advertised on Facebook.

“It just feels so comfortable,” she said about the downtown area.

For the Rudge family, of Johnstown, the event was a perfect outing.

“We decided to come down and check it out,” LeAnn Rudge said.

She and her husband, Travis, brought their daughters Berdie and Addie along for an evening in town.

Rudge said it was great to see people out and about in the downtown area, and noted that their daughters love art and music.

The family was looking forward to Charisa The ViolinDiva perform on the upper deck of ArtHouse6 on Walnut Street, which started at 7 p.m.

“I’m thrilled to bring performers and creative forces like that here,” studio owner Marcene Glover said.

ArtHouse6 also featured tours of the facilities, a “Sip and Nibble” with Flood City Cafe and the Metalwork Exibit gallery curated by Touchstone Center for Crafts.

“A lot of the venues align downtown in wanting to offer cultural enrichment to the community,” Glover said. “It’s great to be involved.”

Messina stood outside his store around 7 p.m. – after the initial rush of business – and surveyed the event.

“This has been amazing,” he said. “This has been a dream come true.”

The Culture Crawl was inspired by a trip that he and his late wife, Lorraine Bezy, took to the Pittsburgh Art Crawl in 2015.

“It just goes to show that people care about culture,” Messina said.

He added that after Thursday, he and the committee were going to evaluate the event and plan to do it again – sooner rather than later.

Messina said he doesn’t want to wait a year to hold another crawl and in the future wants to connect it to Cambria City.

Other venues that hosted events included the Cambria County Library, State Theater, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Gallery on Gazebo and GAR Post 30. 

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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